Cable pratfalls: Union official talks around Ezra!


Dean bungles age of the earth: Michigan became a “right-to-work” state in record time this week. In our view, the procedural con game performed by Governor Snyder extends a continuing sad decline in the integrity of our democratic procedures.

That said, our side can perform rather poorly too. Last night, we were struck by one part of Ezra Klein’s interview with a Michigan labor official.

Ezra was guest-hosting for Rachel. After describing what happened in Michigan, he introduced “Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, who is born and raised in the great state of Michigan.”

(On the Maddow show, every state is always referred to as “the great state of...” This helps us love Rachel more.)

From the liberal perspective, Henry was a pleasant, sympathetic guest. That said, how well can people on our team answer even the most obvious questions?

At one point, Ezra asked this. It's a very obvious question:
KLEIN (12/11/12): Supporters of these laws—I don’t really like to call them “right-to-work” laws, I think it’s just framing. But supporters of this law say, “Why should you, if you’ve just been hired by an employer, G.M. maybe, why should you have to pay to be represented by a union that you didn’t vote for and maybe that you don’t want to join?” Maybe you don’t like unions in general.

What is your response to folks who think this just makes sense, we shouldn’t have to pay for things that we didn’t explicitly opt into?
Why should a worker be required to join a union? Regarding the passage of “right to work” laws, it’s the most obvious possible question.

Ezra teed the question up. But to our ear, Henry replied with a classic non-answer answer:
HENRY (continuing directly): I don’t think government should interfere in the decision between working people and their employers. And there are lots of ways in which workers make the decision when they bargain their contracts and vote on their contracts about the rules of the road.

And this is a situation where government is deciding to intervene in a labor-management relationship. In a system where labor laws are broken, they side with corporations and the wealthy. And it’s why wages have remained stagnant for 30 years.

And we have got to rebuild our power in the democracy and in our economy so we can lift wages for everybody, get this country back to work, and make service jobs, jobs that people can raise their families on and expect that their kids are going to do better.
Did Henry actually answer the question—this extremely obvious question? For ourselves, we’d have to say no. But so what? Ezra moved on. (“Do you think specifically in Michigan there is an opportunity for appeal?”)

We liberals love to note the dumbness of the other tribe. But all too often, we don’t seem to do much of a job explaining our own positions. Then too, we cringed at one point when Howard Dean spoke with Alex Wagner last night.

Alex was guest-hosting for Lawrence. Dean was making shit up:
WAGNER (12/11/12): Governor, David Brooks of the New York Times would seem to have a differing opinion. He seems decidedly optimistic about the future of the party. He writes today, "the Republican party has a long way to go before it revives itself as a majority party. Over the past month, the Republican party has changed more than I expected. They are moving in the right direction and moving fast."

He cites a number of things including the fiscal cliff looming ahead of Republicans and the sort of begrudging view towards reality that the tax rates are going to rise. He talks about Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan addressing the Jack Kemp dinner, and sort of offering a more palatable vision for the GOP.

But at the end of the day, Marco Rubio has said, “I don’t want to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. This is something best approached on a sort of piecemeal basis.” And look—

DEAN: Let’s be honest here, Alex.

WAGNER: Exactly, yes. Go ahead.

DEAN: Marco Rubio has said that he isn’t so sure science is a legitimate form of evaluating how old the Earth is. Gave me a break here. You can put lipstick on a pig, it doesn’t change the pig. Really and truly, these guys are just trying to dress themselves up and avoid talking about these tough issues.
“Let’s be honest here,” Dean suggested—after which, he maybe wasn’t. For our money, Wagner’s account of Rubio’s stance on immigration reform was overstatedly hackish enough. But good lord! Has Rubio really “said that he isn’t so sure science is a legitimate form of evaluating how old the Earth is?”

Well actually no, he pretty much hasn’t. Just last week, he said, quite clearly, that he doesn’t dispute the scientific age of the earth.

It’s sad to see the way these people will dumb us liberals down. Beyond that, we offer a warning:

Wagner referred to Ryan and Rubio. As she did, she misstated the date of Brooks’ column and misrepresented what it said. (According to Wagner, Brooks "seems decidedly optimistic about the future of the party." She can tell, because Brooks wrote this: "The Republican party has a long way to go before it revives itself as a majority party.” So it goes when we get handed our liberal comfort food.)

Back to our warning about Ryan and Rubio:

Ryan is basically a hack—an intellectual clown, a fraud.

Warning: Rubio pretty much isn’t. Rubio is really quite smart—and he has a good political sense. We thought that latter point was clear again in that column by Brooks, which actually appeared last Friday.

We liberals love to gambol and play. Since we’re completely convinced that we’re the smart people, we enjoy assuring ourselves that the other side is just plain dumb—just a bunch of dumb-assed pigs parading around in lipstick.

That’s a very dumb way to proceed. But on The One True Liberal Channel, we do get large helpings of comfort food, liberally sprinkled with Dumb.

It keeps us coming back for more. It lets the suits make money.


  1. It lets the suits make money.

    And that's really what it's all about.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. HENRY (continuing directly): """""I don’t think government should interfere in the decision between working people and their employers.""""

    A zillion years ago (OK 20 or 30), before Oklahoma went for Right to Work, that was the very reason lawmakers gave for resisting it. To hear them explain it, it was a simple matter of keeping the government from interfering in private contracts. But the government does this all the time. There is no valid contract where the law is violated. You can’t hire someone to kill your wife. On what constitutional grounds shouldn’t there be a law that an employer can’t require a employee to join a union and pay dues. All this contract stuff as an argument against Right to Work is beside the point. The arguments should be similar to those made for universal healthcare: Everybody enjoys the benefits of a healthy population (collective bargaining), therefore everyone should pay for health insurance (union dues).


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